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Mary Lou McDonald calls for Government action on International Roma Day

7 April, 2005

Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald MEP has called on the European Union and its member states to seize the opportunity to take " concrete steps" toward reducing the desperate inequalities faced by Roma communities throughout Europe.

Speaking on the eve of International Roma Day, Ms. McDonald said, "It is beyond dispute that the Roma people are amongst the most disadvantagedethnic group in Europe. The statistics speak for themselves. From Europe's wealthiest nations to its poorest, the Roma consistently lag an enormous distance behind others in a wide range of indicators: housing, education, employment, infant mortality, basic nutrition and so on.

"But numbers alone cannot adequately convey the desperate plight of some Roma communities. A recent World Bank study found that many Roma live in conditions similar to those found in sub-Saharan Africa. In Eastern Europe in particular there are Roma camps which would not be out of place in Calcutta or Bangladesh. This includes countries that have recently joined the EU or are expected to within the next decade.

"Roma and other nomadic communities such as Travellers also suffer extensive discrimination and are frequently the victims of hate crimes.I have watched with dismay as the British tabloid and certain politicians press has attempted to make anti Traveller sentiment a key issue in next

month's Westminster election. Sinn Féin will have no part in this and I urge other parties contesting the election to make the same pledge. I also call for the Irish and other Governments to recognise that so-called 'safe countries' are very often not, in reality, safe places to be Roma, and to ensure that genuine refugees are not excluded from protection by the policy of 'white-listing' European countries.

There is no easy solution to the plight of the Roma. No one is under any illusion that these disadvantages can be erased overnight. But concrete steps must be taken to address the problem. This Friday, International Roma Day, provides an opportunity that the European Union and its member states must seize."ENDS

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